Saturday night, I am ordering a beer, sitting on a bar stool. A random guy approaches me from the side – “Hey beautiful” and then the ritual of rolling pick-up sequences begins in order to break the ice: “You have a great smile”, “What’s your name?”, “Are you alone here?”, “Can I buy you a drink?” or simply “Hey, what’s up?”. So far so good. Of course it’s flattering that someone thinks you’re attractive, but in the majority of cases, I’m not in for a flirt since I went out to hang out with my friends. I politely say that I am not interested. Some guys take it easily, others remain persistent. They put their hand on my lap, knee or waist and continue: “Come on, give it a shot” until I say – “That’s not possible, I have a boyfriend”. In this scenario I know the random dude for about 30 seconds and yet I have to lie. Why? Because this excuse is efficient, it functions, it doesn’t cause any escalation or hurt feelings.
I never really paid attention to this behaviour until a close friend of mine sent me the Huffington Post blog article “The Thing That All Women Do That You Don’t Know About” by Gretchen Kelly. Kelly states that women de-escalate and minimize situations of everyday sexism and while a big part of her description is true, I wondered why the lie of having a boyfriend is so common when a single woman wants to brush off an admirer. I have observed this pattern not only on myself, but among my female friends for the last years. If you were searching for an angry response to the question, one could say that men don’t value a woman’s “No” as much as a man’s “possession” and as a consequence they back up as a sign of respect towards her imaginary boyfriend. However, I don’t want to be that mean, I have so many great male friends who appreciate women, it wouldn’t be fair to make everyone a general suspect.
We teach boys not to accept a rejection
However, I don’t like the dichotomy of victim vs. perpetrator. No, I am not a victim, and not every man is a disrespectful asshole. I started asking myself if women haven’t actually taught men in a certain way not to give up. Isn’t this the typical story young girls hear when they in their teenage years: “If he really cares about you, he’ll make the first step and run after you”? On the other hand, isn’t it true that guys are being told not to accept a rejection easily because women just play it cool in order to appear more interesting? Yep, both things happen and these components of the cat-and-dog-game can be crucial for an emerging, crisp flirt, but only under one condition: both parties are actually interested. As soon as one person in this constellation has no real or only flawed interest, the playful behaviour becomes molesting.
It has become fashionable for men not to accept the first “No” – this is what self-proclaimed pick-up artists preach in their “How-to-get-a-girl”-seminars. It’s a trait of determination, a strong will and success – at least that’s what they say, although it takes much more strength to accept the truth if your object of desire is not into you. At the same time, this actually works for a certain type of woman, who wants to see the dedication and commitment of a man who has deep feelings for her, but 1. it is naïve to believe that it’s always a matter of deep feelings and not only strong feelings below the waistline and 2. not every woman likes being chased – by far not!
Thinking inside of boxes doesn’t lead you anywhere
As I said, the strategy to play it hard to reach as a women and being a highly persistent as a man, can lead to confusion and frustration, but the solution might not be that difficult. Since everyone wants to be respected for their character and the person they are, why can’t we stop to teach this thinking inside of a box when it comes to other people? Behaviour is not as simply as we would like to be and it’s not only a matter of black and white when it comes to flirting – all in or all out.
Bear in mind that when engaged into a flirt, your counterpart might not be as convinced as you are and silly games might cause the opposite of the desired reaction. Moreover, not everyone is behaving in accordance to society’s norms. Indeed, there are men who appreciate to be approached, some are shy, others don’t want to be approached at all, and the same applies to women. Finally – a “No” very often unarguably means “No”. Save yourself the frustration and cut the games.